Saturday, 7 February 2015

Many States Still in Flu's Grip, But Some Areas Report Declines


CDC expects to see high activity for several more weeks

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- While levels of flu remain high throughout parts of the United States, some areas are reporting declines, government health officials reported Friday.

"We have seen a national peak in influenza, but we are still seeing some increases in activity, specifically on the West Coast, and the Northeast and New England," said Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of surveillance and outbreak response in the influenza division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We expect we will see high flu activity for several more weeks," she added.

However, at the end of January, 10 states reported minimal flu activity. They were Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Since the start of the current flu season, the predominant type of flu has been an H3N2 strain that is not a good match to this year's vaccine. The majority of H3N2-related infections diagnosed so far -- 75 percent -- are different from the strain in the vaccine, Finelli said.

The reason: The circulating H3N2 strain mutated after scientists settled last year on the makeup of this season's flu shot.

This year's flu season continues to hit children and the elderly hardest. By Jan. 31, 69 children had died from complications of flu.

In an average year, children's deaths vary from as few as 30 to as many as 170 or more, CDC officials said.

As the season continues, Finelli expects to see a surge of other flu strains. "About this time of year, in February and March, we see an increase in influenza B," she said.

That could be good news on the vaccine front. Right now, the flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective, because of the mutated H3N2 strain. But as other strains become more widespread, the vaccine's effectiveness should increase, she said.

Most years, flu vaccine effectiveness ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, according to the CDC.

Twenty-three percent effectiveness means there's some benefit -- a little less flu among vaccinated people. Typically, flu is more common among the unvaccinated, but this year there's been a lot of flu both in people who are vaccinated and those who aren't, CDC officials said.

source : Many States Still in Flu's Grip, But Some Areas Report Declines

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